Coach: Nick Saban
You Should Know: Saban lost five players to the NFL in the off-season, including star Trent Richardson, but running back Eddie Lacy could look to step up and fill Richardson’s shoes. Sorry about that, Florida Atlantic and Western Carolina; might get ugly for teams like you. If this bothers you, feel free to follow the trail of tears down the road to the Nick Saban Hate Club in Auburn. You could even stop off at the Paul Bryant Museum on the way and — wait, yeah, you probably don’t want to do that.
Interesting Fact: Even with a top-notch and accomplished football program, most Alabama fans still live in Alabama. So there’s a downside to everything, I guess.
Coach: Gene Chizik
2011 Record: 8-5
You Should Know: The Auburn Tigers were only 4-4 in the SEC last season with a win over Virginia at the Chik-Fil-A Bowl (for more information on Chik-Fil-A, please see: everywhere), and they still have a couple of options jockeying for the quarterback spot in Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier. So it could be a wild year for Auburn football. Also, they have players named both Cassanova and Shakespeare. That’s kind of weird, I think we can all agree.
Fun Fact: Though he can’t prove it, Tony Barbee is convinced that it’s Gene Chizik who keeps leaving flaming bags of poop on his doorstep.
Coach: Les Miles
2011 Record: 13-1
You Should Know: The Tigers had a stellar 2011 and return a lot of talent for 2012. They’re loaded with running backs and they bring back a lot of a really strong defensive line. This does not, I think it’s safe to say, bode well for the Towson Tigers on September 29. Defensive end Barkevious Mingo is also already on several award watch lists, including those for the Ted Hendricks Award and the Silliest Name in the SEC Award. LSU is also hoping for big things from new starting QB Zach Mettenberger, who was once arrested outside a Georgia bar for grabbing the buttocks of a Valdosta State University student. Classy! (Watch your buttocks, University of Idaho.)
Interesting Fact: In 1988, a stellar final play once logged enough noise from the 80,000-person LSU stadium to register as an earthquake elsewhere on campus. Similarly, “Free Barbecue Day” at Bryant-Denny stadium in Alabama once yielded enough result to qualify statistically as an “airborne chemical attack.”
Coach: Kevin Sumlin
2011 Record: 7-6
You Should Know: The Aggies are losing their starting quarterback in Ryan Tannehill but return some decent offensive starters. Still, they’re going to need to come together if they’re going to show the SEC they’re here for realz (spoiler alert: this will not be that year). It doesn’t help that they’ll face Arkansas and LSU in their inaugural season here. It’s also interesting to note that Texas A&M has faced five SEC opponents in the last three seasons and didn’t win any of those games. It’s going to be a tough road — or, as they say in Texas, it’ll be like “beatin’ the devil ’round a stump,” whatever that means. Crazy, stupid Texans.
Interesting Fact: In a departure from what they’ve been used to for many years in the Big 12, Texas A&M is expected to struggle with the SEC’s strict “no spurs” policy.
2011 Record: 7-6
Coach: Dan Mullen
You Should Know: The Bulldogs only won two games in the SEC in 2011, against UK and Ole Miss. Not sayin’, just sayin’. But they did make the Music City Bowl, where they beat Wake Forest. They’re returning a lot of talent, but they still have to play the rest of the SEC West. Quarterback Tyler Russell is ready to both take his spot as a full-timer for the team and his spot in the pantheon of 489 college quarterbacks this year named “Tyler.” Coach Dan Mullen said in July that “If we win the SEC West, there’s a chance we’re playing for the national title.” That’s cute, coach.
Interesting Fact: Mississippi State credits itself for being the first sports team ever to use the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?” at a sporting event. You’d think that might be something they’d want to keep to themselves, but they don’t.
Coach: John L. Smith
2011 Record: 11-2
You Should Know: After motorcycling lothario Bobby Petrino was fired by Arkansas he was replaced by John L. Smith, who has slapped himself in the face multiple times during post-game press conferences. That’s pretty awesome, but they’re still going to miss Petrino’s guidance. True, they return 15 starters from their stellar prior season, including quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis, but they’re still getting used to a new coach. A couple of easy teams on the schedule, like University of Louisiana-Monroe and Tulsa, should help balance them out even if they have growing pains with the big dogs.
Fun Fact: In a story similar to Petrino’s, Arkansas mascot “Big Red” came under fire during the offseason for inappropriately texting a young sow in neighboring Springdale, causing home friction with his wife “Sue E” and their young child “Pork Chop.” According to a press release from the family, they are working through it, but it’s still going to be awkward for everyone.
Coach: Hugh Freeze
2011 Record: 2-10
You Should Know: Ole Miss was bad last year (only beating Southern Illinois and Fresno State) and they’ll probably be bad again this year. But they have a new coach in former Arkansas State skipper Hugh Freeze, who went 10-2 last year for the Red Wolves. They may not have the talent this year for Freeze to bring them back to contention, but at least they still have basketball! (ed. note: they do not have basketball).
Interesting Fact: Fans of The Blind Side should note that Freeze was lead character Michael Oher’s actual football coach in high school, and he even had a cameo in the film. He totally acts like he knows Tim McGraw, but he doesn’t.